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How do conservation areas affect demolition projects?

January 11, 2022

Firstly, let’s define what a conservation area is in England, Scotland and Wales.

Conservation areas exist to manage and protect the special architectural and historic interest of a place – in other words, the features that make it unique. Every local authority in England has at least one conservation area and there are around 10,000 in England.

Under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 a local authority may determine which parts of its area are of special architectural or historic interest and may designate these as Conservation Areas. The public will normally be consulted on any proposal to designate conservation areas or to change their boundaries. There are over 600 Conservation Areas in Scotland. Many were designated in the early 1970s, but some have since been re-designated, merged, renamed, given smaller or larger boundaries and new ones have been added.

Conservation areas are distinct parts of the historic environment designated by local planning authorities for their special architectural or historic interest. There are more than 500 conservation areas in Wales and they are valued as special places by those who live and work in them.

Broadly similar in scope, we’re sure you’ll agree and with over 11000 in mainland Britain (though we’re sure the English definition encompasses more than the Scottish and Welsh), demolition and Downtakings are approached with due diligence in conservation areas, just as in areas that don’t historical or cultural heritage.

The world seems to move in 50 or 60 year cycles, we think. The Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century led to the distinct residential and workplace architecture that is widely visible today.  Towns and cities of the north are marked by beautiful cotton and woolen mills. Other areas bear the marks of manufacturing and mining.

As work processes have changed and automation has begun, the needs of communities have changed and the workplaces that once employed tens of thousands become relics of the past. There was a post war (WW2) in house building and relative economic prosperity, which saw decline in the 70s and is continuing today with the digital economy usurping the physical one.

Many businesses now operate online only and working from home in the pandemic has hastened the decline of shops and physical workplaces, and yet, conservation areas proliferate and in 50 years’ time, will contemporary buildings achieve listed or conservation status.

We digress.

You want to know answers to the question: How do conservation areas affect demolition projects?

So here it goes.

The first point to note is that buildings in conservation areas, even when they are not listed, need special attention.  Councils often retain documents that show buildings that contribute to the character of an area. Demolition of unlisted buildings in conservation areas follows the same process as demolition of listed buildings.

Secondly, what is currently in place needs to be enhanced or improved.  As we referred to in a previous blog, two classic cases close to us in Edinburgh are the conversion of St Jude’s Episcopal Church into Malmaison Hotel (Glasgow) and the adaptation of the Edwardian beach shelters at Broughty Ferry into a new restaurant. Both of these schemes enhance what was there previously.

Thirdly, we quote from Historic Environment, Scotland, who summate with this:

Demolition should not begin until evidence is given of contracts let either for the new development or for appropriate long‐term treatment as open space where that outcome conforms to the character of the area. Gap sites could be harmful to the character of the area if allowed to lie undeveloped for a significant time between demolition and redevelopment.

There’s little doubt that everyone wants to see the preservation and enhancement of conservation areas and Kinetic Demolition have broad experience of this in our projects and work.

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